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Failing trigonometry = the death of a amatuer physicist

  1. Mar 31, 2009 #1
    I feel so shamed of myself. I don't know who to blame. The teacher gives the exact same lessons on the book, but never follow how you should answer your trig. problems. I studied all through the week and even late at night. I got a C in the class, but I really want to be a physicist because I love math. Math is like a fun puzzle to solve. I feel like my dreams are dying and theoretical physics may be a fool's dream. Can anybody cheer me up? Has any physicist failed a math class and later on in life did very good on other math subjects.

    My strong points are formulas and equations. And yet! I'm doing bad in trigonometry.
    Some guidance would help me in my academic issues.

    Thank you for those who took time reading my dilemma.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2009 #2


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    Tough to say. Can you understand by yourself WHY you are doing poorly in Trigonometry? Are you merely weak in some aspect of Trig. or are you deficient in some prerequisite for Trig? Also, do not fool yourself with grades from your prerequisite courses leading to the Trigonometry course. A grade no matter what it be above D does not mean that you fully understood everything needed for the course which follow or for the courses in which you earned the grade. To be very brief, RESTUDY!
  4. Mar 31, 2009 #3
    Don’t try to be a great man, just be a man. . . --Zephren Cochrane Star Trek: First Contact
  5. Mar 31, 2009 #4


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    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: lets see.. .1... 2... 3... yup, failed 3 math classes in college alone and i'm one of hte better mathematically inclined grad students in my department.

    There are some BAD teachers out there. Plus there are some subjects that you just don't get the first time around or even the second but hopefully at some point, something will click or you'll find a good professor or your countless hours of studying will simply brute force the information into your brain :)
  6. Apr 1, 2009 #5
    Don't worry to much about it. I'm not a physics major but I failed two math classes and a lot of classmates say I'm great at math. If you have to take trig again, its not a big deal.
  7. Apr 1, 2009 #6
    It's that I don't understand why this damn professor wanted the classroom to do the homework on the book, yet he gives a different answer to any subject and the book does not clarify how we should answer the trig problem. I find it stupid and he is a bad teacher if he leaves out important examples that we must know.

    If that's not the case, maybe I should quit and accept that I have no talent at anything. I'm sorry to vent off or go angry, but I think the education system in Florida sucks so much it can be compared to a prostitute giving oral. I' am happy that everyone reply my topic and I thank all of you who did.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2009
  8. Apr 1, 2009 #7
    What I've found is using multiple references to a subject can really clear things up. Check out other Trig books and see if that helps. It's a lot more work but might save you. Good luck.
  9. Apr 1, 2009 #8
    I'm currently working on a theoretical physics PhD, and I didn't stand out in my high school math classes until taking calculus. I never took the class called 'trigonometry', but in my junior year of high school I decided I wanted to do physics and I found out that calculus was imporant, so I went sraight from a B- in algebra 2 to an A in calculus. The year after that I encouraged a high school friend do the exact same thing (they went on to be a math major as an undergrad and went to grad school in eonomics).

    Looking back, the problem was that I never saw anything close to the 'big picture' in math until calculus. I say hang in there until then...
  10. Apr 1, 2009 #9
    I just started taking college classes again this semester, after an 8 year break. The last time I used trig was in 2001. I'm taking the first semester of calc-based physics this semester, and it uses a lot of trig. That was my biggest weakness coming into the class.

    After a few weeks, a lot of the trig is just second nature. It took a little bit of time to get up to speed, but it wasn't that hard to re-learn "on the fly," so to speak.
  11. Apr 1, 2009 #10


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    Kaos86, the current semester may be a major development semester for you. Trigonometry is somewhat different from "Algebra 2". Before this, you did not study cyclic relationships and the two or more ways to represent cyclic information. You may currently be struggling with how to study Trigonometry. As frustrated as you are right now, you may be learning how to study Trigonometry, and you might not know this for another 2, 3, 5, or 6 more months.

    How is your Algebra? If it is basically good, then after you are done struggling with Trigonometry at the end of the semester, spend the whole summer studying it again, on your own, not attending the course. Then, enroll in it for the Autumn term to study officially for the second time. You should be able then to earn at least a grade of B.

    You do not need to know many examples. Maybe the only "examples" you must know are the basic graphs of the functions AND graphs of their inverses. There are really no other examples which you must know. You must know the Unit Circle, for certain, and the common values of functions (sine and cosine) for certain common reference angles. You should know how to derive the angle addition and difference formulas for sine and for cosine. You must know the definitions of the trigonometric functions.
  12. Apr 1, 2009 #11
    I agree with you isabelle. Hang in there kaos86. Calculus, especially coupled with Physics will be worth your struggles. Don't give up.
    "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."
    -Randy Pausch
  13. Apr 1, 2009 #12


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    If you can't derive your identities and formulas and only rely on brute memorization you won't get too far.

    Even if you don't remember them the day of your test, if you know how to derive them you should do fine.
  14. Apr 2, 2009 #13
    I remember sinking to C level in trig. when I was about 13. I fixed it by reading through a good 'programmed text' on trig borrowed from the local library. Any trig. text that 'speaks to you' should do the job. I was soon top of the class again... until the next glitch a few years later :-)

    Don't feel ashamed, this kind of thing happens to most people.
  15. Apr 2, 2009 #14
    "It's that I don't understand why this damn professor wanted the classroom to do the homework on the book..."

    You surely will not get very far with that sort of attitude. The professor does not need to learn the material; you do. In the end, you will be the one getting the information you need, or not, as the case may be. Even if he does exactly nothing to help you (which would be fairly uncommon, but not impossible), it is still up to you to learn the material.

    Your options at this point are to buckle down and learn the material, or to drop the class and try it again later. Blaming the teacher is simply childish and counter productive.
  16. Apr 2, 2009 #15
    Shouldn't this sentence read. "I really want to be a mathematician because I love math."
  17. Apr 2, 2009 #16
    Growing up, math was my worst subject. I usually did average work or better, but it was awful compared to my other subjects.

    It was even worse in trig. I got a C in high school trig - the worst grade I ever got in my life! - and took Calculus the next year in part to spite the trig teacher who I so loathed, and who told me that I was not capable of doing math.

    I had to work very, very hard in calculus, but I got a 4 on the AP test. I majored in math and physics in college (sometimes things I hadn't learned popped up, but I filled in the holes). And strangely, I found that I am very good at abstract ideas and theorems, so I dominated my abstract algebra, linear algebra and differential geometry classes. I'm a decent math student now - I can hold my own. So, yes, there is hope. Don't give up. The thing is that math sometimes just takes a long time. You have to see it many times sometimes. The key is not to give up!! And never have too much pride to ask for help.
  18. Apr 3, 2009 #17
    I want to be a theoretical physicist {Theoretical physics employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics in an attempt to explain experimental data taken of the natural world. It has been compared to "being a composer on a world without sound ... throwing a bottle into the future, and if we do it right, future generations can use that information." Its central core is mathematical physics 1, though other conceptual techniques are also used.}

    Source: Wikipedia.org.
  19. Apr 3, 2009 #18
    If you're going to become a physicist because you love math, you are going to be disappointed. I would suggest finding a better source than wikipedia to base your judgment on becoming a theoretical physicist.
  20. Apr 17, 2009 #19
    You're right. I should not blame the professor. I should blame myself and those damn video games. I've been studying hard now. I've studied so hard that I usually go to sleep at 4:00 am in the morning. This class just built more character in my personality and help me be more serious in my career on Theoretical Physics.
  21. Apr 17, 2009 #20
    Don't get desperate to learn it, relax & start studying it from scratch, ie, assume that you haven't seen θ, Ψ, α, γ etc before.

    Sometimes one overlooks a simple statement & understands it in a wrong or not so correct form & repeats the same mistake time & time again without noticing it. it happens with soo many people. Don't get restless about it, just rethink what you are doing wrong.
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